"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Who I am
Who am I? A seemingly simple question, that is actually very difficult to answer. As I look back and reflect upon my high school career, I am a very different person now, than I was walking in the doors as a freshman. I began my freshman year, a quiet, shy girl who stuck to a few close friends I had since elementary school. I did not enjoy change and liked to stay in my comfort zone. I had no idea of the major changes that the next four years of my life would bring about. These changes caused a transformation in myself that I could have never before imagined. These are a few of the most influential high school experiences that have played a pivotal role in becoming who I am today:
My transformation began with the start of high school sports. In the fall, I was one of two freshman on the jv volleyball team. I went in only really knowing the other freshman, but I came out of that season with a whole new group of friends. I learned what it was like to be a part of a high school athletic team and this experience was the first little step to opening myself up to new challenges. Along with volleyball, I played varsity soccer that year. We were a very young team, consisting mostly of freshmen, but we found a great amount of success that season. That soccer season was my first real encounter with what it meant to sacrifice personal wants, for the success of the team. I began the season as a midfielder, one of my favorite positions, but when both of our keepers were injured we needed someone to step up and fill the role. As a multiple sport athlete with a fair amount of hand eye coordination I was designated the next best fit for the position. Luckily our keeper recovered quickly and I only had to play two games, but through that experience I learned the importance of selflessness when it comes to playing a team sport. Although I would have much rather been playing on the field, my team needed me in the goal and that is one of the most important lessons I have learned though high school athletics.
My comfort zone was stretched yet again, during my sophomore year, when I made the varsity volleyball team and became the starting setter. This opportunity pushed me both athletically and socially. I went into the beginning of the season as a very quiet, underclassman who didn't really know any of the older girls. As the season went on though, I became very close friends with one of the seniors and made friends on that team that I will have forever. Playing with upperclassmen for my first two years of high school sports definitely impacted me in a positive way, pushing me to meet new people that I otherwise would probably not have gotten to know.
My change through sports did not stop there; my junior and senior volleyball and soccer seasons continued to shape me into the person I have become. The winter of my junior year, I joined a club volleyball team based out of Lansing. I knew a few people that had played there before and thought I would give it a try. I was put on a team that I knew no one on and made many new friends through that experience, along with advancing my volleyball skills greatly. I met girls from some of our rival schools and have enjoyed the friendly competition that has brought during this high school season. I decided to play again this year and have expanded this group of friends from other schools even more. Playing club volleyball has helped me advance my athletic skills but has also given me many new friendships that I would have never had without it. It has forced me to come out of my shell and has given me a greater amount of self confidence. Over the past few years, I have transformed from one of the quietest on these volleyball and soccer teams, to being a captain and a leader on each. I have become comfortable with being looked to, to lead these teams in practices and games. I am not afraid to speak my mind and have come to find a major part of my identity within these teams.
Another major contributor to my transformation into the person that I am today is the many places that I traveled throughout high school. Beginning close to home, my family has taken many trips to visit relatives and family friends in the past four years. We go to Ohio every summer for a family reunion, visit my grandparents and cousins up north, and my aunts and uncle in the Chicago area. I have enjoyed getting to spend quality time with my family, away from the craziness of everyday life.
My junior year, my family went to Orlando, Florida for spring break and this year we went on a cruise to the Western Caribbean. Some of the highlights of these trips were: zip lining at Gatorland, visiting Busch Gardens and Epcot, parasailing, and snorkeling in a coral reef. I am a bit on an adventure seeker, so I was thrilled to be able to experience these things that are not available to do where we live. It was nice to get to truly relax for a week and just enjoy ourselves.
February of my sophomore year, my dad, my sister, and I went to Germany for about five days to visit my mom who was getting cancer treatment there. It was somewhat of a short notice that we were going to go, but it is one of my travel experiences that I am most grateful for. While we were there, we went on a bus tour through the Alps and got to sight see through the little town we were staying in. This trip gave me a little glimpse of what I would soon be experiencing that same summer.
The most influential travel experience in high school came the summer after my sophomore year. During the second semester of that year, I took the school's German class. I was then given the opportunity to go on a two and a half week trip with fifteen other students to Germany. We began the trip by staying in Munich for about four days with our group and then drove north and stayed with our host families for almost two weeks. Through this trip I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, made many new friends, and learned about German culture and history. Of course the thought of traveling across the world, by yourself, to stay with a family you have never met before can be pretty intimidating at first. Luckily, I was able to go on this trip with three of my best friends and that is a major reason why it was so much fun for me. Besides those three, I did not know many of the other students on the trip very well in the beginning. Many of them were senior that I had not even spoken to much, but by the end of the trip our group had bonded tremendously. This is now a group of people that have a bond like no other and it cannot be fully understood without having experienced it. While in Germany, we had the opportunity to visit some iconic historical sites including The Eagle's Nest, Dachau, and The Museum of Natural History. All three of these places were very eye opening locations that I enjoyed learning about greatly. We also got to experience German culture first hand. We were able to participate in their customs with our host families, and at school with our host. Overall, deciding to go on the trip to Germany was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am so grateful for the opportunities that came with it.
By far the most influential event that has happened throughout my high school career happened just before the start of my junior year. August 6, 2013 is the day that my life changed forever. This was the day that my mom passed away from breast cancer. Losing my mom has played an integral part in me becoming who I am today. It has been the hardest thing that I have ever had to face, but has shaped me in ways I would have never thought possible. There are so many things that I have learned from this experience. I have learned to cherish the time that you have with people. The saying, "you don't know what you have until it's gone" hits home very hard for me. It is so true; we take for granted the time we are given with people. You don't truly realize the impact someone has on your life until they are no longer here to make it. I have also learned about the compassion of others through this experience. Before my mom died, people showed so much compassion to our family through meals, rides, and words of encouragement. After she passed away, this compassion only grew. My family received meals from friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, and neighbors. We had people checking in, just seeing how we were doing and if there was anything they could do to help. We were shown an overwhelming amount of love that helped tremendously those next few months. I found a tremendous amount of support in my friends, especially one who had also lost he mom to cancer. She was a major part in helping me through it. This experience has also given me the opportunity to reach out and help others experiencing a loss as well. After seeing the impact my friend had on me, I wanted to also be able to help others through their struggles. I have always been a pretty caring person, but going through this experience has allowed me to connect with people on another level. Through this experience, I have also become a much more independent person. I have had to step up and fill some roles that I would not have previously played. The necessity for me to fill some of these roles has stretched me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it has greatly contributed to my preparedness for life after high school.
I take pride in my academics. Throughout high school, I have worked hard to maintain a high grade point average and to do the best I could in each class that I took. I pushed myself by taking challenging classes, including three AP classes this year. I am proud that I am ranked fifth in our class. I am proud that I have made the decision to attend Lawrence Technological University next year and will be receiving an academic scholarship to study biomedical engineering. I am proud that I have decided what I want to study in college, after a very long period of not knowing what I wanted to do.
I am also proud of what I have achieved through athletics. Over the past four years I have received various awards in soccer and volleyball; from all district, all conference, all area, and most recently in volleyball, all state. I am proud that recently, my hard work over the years has opened up a new opportunity with my athletic career. A few weeks ago I signed to play volleyball in college and will be receiving an athletic scholarship to play there.
Family & Friends:
I am proud of the relationships that I have made over the past few years. I have developed stronger relationships with my family and have made lifelong friends, who have been by my side through every part of high school.
A word of advice
Entering high school can bring about a great amount of social pressure to conform to society. Everyone wants to feel liked and wanted, but putting on a fake persona is not the best way to do it. It will not make you very many true friends in the long run. By being yourself, you will build strong, healthy friendships. So do what makes you happy, not what society says is cool or in style.
Try New Things.
High school is about finding out who you are as a person. One of the best ways to do this is by getting involved and trying new things. There are many clubs and activities to try in high school and I challenge you to find one that strikes your interest and join. Who knows, you may meet new friends or find something that you are great at that you never before new about. Don't be afraid to branch out from your current friend group as you go through high school, it will likely change anyway. Get to know someone new and expand your friendships as you go through high school.
Embrace Your Failures.
I must say, I am somewhat of a perfectionist. My constant need to be perfect can become overwhelming at times. I have learned over the past few years that the most important thing is not being perfect, but doing your best. When something doesn't turn out the way you hoped it would, you can react one of two ways; you can either dwell on it or learn from it. I have found that although dwelling is easier, learning is what will be of great benefit to your happiness and success.
Don't Stress the Little Stuff.
I am also very much a worrier. I stress over just about everything. Uncertainty is my worst enemy. I always want to have everything planned out, to the smallest detail. I have found though, that most of the stress I have is very unnecessary. It doesn't help the situation and just distracts me from doing anything that would. Don't worry over small meaningless things, instead invest your time into something productive.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can leave you with is to be selfless. Contrary to popular belief, everything is not about you. In a world where far too many believe they are the center of the universe, we can always use a little more selflessness. Be nice to people; you never know what someone else is going through.